Saturday, July 10, 2004

4 in the morning, 2004-style

I'm up at 4AM - not an unusual circumstance these days - nursing the baby, watching a Conan O'Brien rerun, typing up homework. Normalcy, at least for me, at least right now.

A moment later and my heart is racing, I'm holding my breath, and I'm frantically flipping channels trying to find out what the f***'s going on. Why? Because on the top of the TV screen, a nice little cryptic message has just scrolled by. "CIVIL AUTHORITIES HAVE ISSUED. TUNE IN TO LOCAL NEWS STATION FOR DETAILS" accompanied by the tell-tale emergency-preparedness buzz that we've been hearing on TV and radio stations for decades, yeah that one, the one that means an earthquake is happening, or the local volcano's erupting, or somebody's dropped a bomb on your local metropolis.

On the local news channels, I find infomercial after infomercial, no news. The 24-hour local news channel is breathlessly relating a local mystery, some guy has evidently faked his own death ... clearly not an emergency for anyone other than his immediate family.

So I carry my 1-year-old over to the other room, pick up the cordless phone, and, holding my breath, dial 911.

Me: "Is there some sort of emergency going on?"
Dispatcher: "Not that I know of, why?"
Me: "Well, they're showing an alert on the TV that says civil authorities have issued something, and tune in to local news station for details."
Dispatcher: "No, there's nothing going on."
Me: "Hmm."
Dispatcher (helpfully): "Uh, there was an Amber alert issued a few minutes ago ..."
(I momentarily try to remember whether Amber is a new terror alert level between Yellow and Orange, then recall that it's a missing-child code -- the name, not the color -- and has nothing to do with der Heimland.)
Me: "Oh?"
Dispatcher: "Yeah, I think somebody might have screwed up and hit the wrong button."

I picture a control panel in the local police station, with two big color buttons on it. Push one, an Amber alert goes out and maybe a missing child can be found; push the other and you've got mass panic. Nice.

While I've been on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, the alert has disappeared, the buzzing has stopped. I thank the dispatcher and hang up, not entirely reassured.

So. Good morning. The sun's rising, and everything seems normal. I've flipped over to the local PBS station and am watching POV, which is showing a documentary about an American woman photojournalist, covering the invasion of Iraq. She's young, attractive, female and white, which is I guess why we're supposed to find her more interesting than the brown, mostly male, Arabic people appearing on screen with her. My concerns grow wider again, no longer fearing for my immediate health and safety or that of my own family, able to worry again about my larger family, the human family.

Life in 2004.

Friday, July 09, 2004


The monsoon has arrived.

This afternoon's brief showers over northern Arizona signal the arrival of the annual weather pattern we so grandiloquently name for its big brother in other lands. I think the local definition states merely that the relative humidity reaches 50%.

Desert state that we are, any event that concentrates moisture is a big deal. Rainfall is normally scarce and we've been in an extended draught to boot. Life here depends on rain, much as we modern, techno-savvy humans like to think we're somehow separate from the ebbs and flows of the natural world. I have no doubt that, in places like the arid western US, at least, water will become the new oil, in terms of precious commodities, in the very near future. The Colorado River, lifeblood of the west, is overbooked by the seven states that lay claim to its liquid wealth. I think that little, if any, water makes it to the Sea of Cortez anymore. BTW, there's a great book on the subject of water and water politics in the western US. Sadly, the author died in 2000. A sequel to his 1986 book could not be more timely.

There is increasing talk, locally and statewide, of the need for more water projects and, in any case, of water shortages and imminent crises; yet the developers keep building and, predictably, the people keep moving here and buying what they build. It always amazes me (though perhaps it shouldn't) how local governments and regional authorities continue to sell out to the Almighty Dollar in their insatiable quest for increased revenue, approving water-sucking golf course "communities" (there's an insulting misuse of a word) as though we lived in the tropics.

Hey, guys--- get it through your thick, money-addled skulls: this is a fucking desert! Water is more precious than gold here!

They'll counter with some crazed notion of towing icebergs from the Arctic or something equally lunatic, some deus ex machina technosolution that will allow us to continue on our blundering, ignorant way, heedless of cost and consequence. Meanwhile, any day of the week, you can find the proles out there hosing their driveways, completely oblivious to the absurdity of their actions, utterly disconnected from the tangible truth of their environment.


I went up on my rooftop deck tonight, in the cool post-storm air. Crisp air, fresh and delicious, washed of all its dusty sins. The stars are sharp as fresh-cut diamonds, the Milky Way a meandering river of light. I can smell the rejoicing of the land, how this brief moisture has awakened everything, opened the pores of the earth and brought it alive again, unshackled the crust of life that so doggedly makes it home in this harsh aridity. Thank God the monsoon has come again...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

hey, baby, what's your personality type?

Personality Typing Systems---
New Age consumer distraction or useful tool in the quest for development of human potential?

Today I discovered, through the agency of a friend who knows about these things, that I'm a Projector in the Human Design system of knowledge for classification of personality types. Not only did I have no idea what that meant (until, via further emails, my friend gave me a cursory explanation) but I had only very recently ever heard of the Human Design system; thanks for that encounter go to the good people at Utne Reader magazine, with whom I have a subscription.

Utne's May/June issue this year (cover title: Your Secret Self: Personality Typing: The Power of Knowing Who You Really Are) featured an article outlining some of the major personality typing systems currently available. Among them, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is perhaps the most widely known to the middle-class-literate (I thought about using cognoscenti here but it seems too flattering when I mean merely folks who generally keep up with pop-psych/hip-cool social trends).

I'd taken the Myers-Briggs test some years ago and been at least egotistically pleased to find myself in the extreme minority (1% of the population) as an INTJ.

I took a shorter, online version recently and discovered I'd wandered into a larger crowd, INTF. Well, I've always said the most consistent thing about me is my inconsistency...

Human Design is described in the Utne article as "Drawing on science and esoteric systems from around the world---from quantum physics, biochemistry, and genetics to astrology, the Hindu chakra system, the Judaic Kabbalah, and the Chinese I Ching." Wow. Sounds like Microsoft's strategy for programming, what I call the kitchen sink approach: if you can conceive of it, put it in there! Someone'll want it! My online discussions with my friend--- who also sent me my personal Human Design chart as a pdf--- suggest the system at least bears some serious consideration. His involvement with the system recently included working with his (now-ex) wife in a private practice that, as its main focus, offers readings and counseling based on clients' Human Design charts. He told me that he, too, was quite skeptical upon first exposure to the system and that, gradually, through study and real-world experience with it, vis-a-vis his own life, he became convinced that the system is sound. He did allow that its practical interpretation is a matter open to discussion, as results can certainly vary from one "expert" to the next.

According to my admittedly limited understanding (only a professional reading--- for a fee--- can give you a more comprehensive analysis of your individual chart), a Projector (about 20% of the population) should never initiate big things in his life, rather he should await invitation. Utne offers this succinct description of the type: "Naturally able to work with and guide the energy of others, but only when they [the Projectors, I assume] are recognized and appreciated for their unique abilities and traits. They are noticed everywhere they go, but often not seen for who they really are. They need to be invited before acting or joining in. Strategy: Wait to be invited, especially for big events in life like marriage, career, family, and love. Do not pursue or initiate."

Ick. That seems anathema to me. But perhaps that's only because I was raised, in fairly typical American fashion, with the credo that one must go-fight-win-do in order to "get anywhere," that there's no free lunch, that one must pull oneself up by one's bootstraps, etc. It's always a bit threatening to hear an idea/theory/concept that challenges one's deeply-held beliefs. But if you can rise above your ego into some sort of objectivity, you may find that new ideas can only expand your understanding of the Universe; the apparent threat is merely the ego's defensive reaction against perceived changes in its status quo.

My friend, also a Projector, said that if I can release the notion that I must Stride Boldly Forward with Intent and Gumption and All Manner of Entrepreneurial Spirit in order to achieve my dreams, then great things can happen for me. I wanted to ask about his recent divorce and his move back to his parents' to see if that was an example of the Great Things I can expect for myself, but I thought it best to curb my tongue (er, fingers). He does claim to be feeling much better about his life now, despite the obvious external compromises, than he did before he started taking Human Design seriously. And he says the precepts he's learned from his own chart have helped him live a better life.

How can one trust any of this stuff? By what authority are these systems validated, if at all? The system behind Human Design supposedly came to its founder, one Ra Uru Hu by name (and a Canuck, no less!) from "The Voice," a bodiless communication that only he heard. What the hell kind of authority is that? And this system is just one of many that, I suspect, wax and wane in popularity with the fickle social tides. Overall, I'd guess, such systems will only gain adherents (though individual systems may come and go) because difficult times like these (of social evolution, global insecurity, exponential expansion of data, if not of actual knowledge) spur folks on to seek answers to their problems outside the tried-and-true channels of the existing social order.

I just wish people would at least pretend to approach these things with a modicum of healthy skepticism or make some attempt to apply a sort of scientific analysis to judge such things. I suppose the most common type of "science" used is folks' personal experience. Sally says, "It works for me" and that's good enough for her; Bob says, "That's a buncha baloney" about the same belief system and we're left at square one.

If everyone must simply go with his instincts and learn by trial and error, can we ever truly claim we've added to human knowledge? Is the next step for human evolution to move away from the Western, rationalistic, scientific-method approach toward a more esoteric, humanistic, individualist, experience-based approach? In other words, are we meant now to let go our faith in science (which we may call "collective belief") in favor of individual belief? All I can say from my experience at this point is people believe what they want to believe.